Applied cognitive science

I'm not sure one can find anything more pressing than to help educate children all around the world -that is of course, once their basic health is guaranteed. We shouldn't leave this to religion, as is too often the case, and we should do it with the full knowledge our modern times have to offer. That means exploiting cognitive science.

In this recent NYT article, get acquainted with children who directly profit from our emerging understanding of the brain. New teaching techniques apparently include several forms of playful enumeration using sensory-motor reinforcement (e.g. seven! can you touch your nose seven times?), supervised training in what we call subitization (the ability to rapidly distinguish between one, two or three objects), as well as number decisions (which is bigger, 5, 7 or 9?) set-up in a fun way.

The human system for number is a fascinating thing. To give you but a simple taste of how strange it is, the evidence is that we represent numbers using a logarithmic scale -our notion of the distance between 10 and 100 being roughly the same as between 1000 and 10000. Athough I confess I haven't read the book I have no hesitation in recommanding The Number Sense (the writer Stanislas Dehaene is a great cognitive scientist, see for instance his page on edge).

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